Retirement Redesigned

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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Retirement Redesigned

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Train Your Internal Locus of Control

Monday Deadline. Psychologists have identified two opposite styles of behavior. They are the Internal Locus of Control and the External Locus of Control. The Internal Locus of Control refers to the behaviors of people that are motivated by their own decisions and are driven by a need to maintain control of whatever needs to be done. It is for personal accountability and taking charge of circumstances. People with a strong internal locus of control make things happen.

The External locus of control on the other hand refers to the behavior of people that are influenced and affected by circumstances outside of themselves and where they are usually not in control of conditions that have an effect on them. They can blame circumstances beyond themselves when things go wrong. Rather than making things happen, things happen to them
Most leaders, entrepreneurs and senior executives have an internal locus of control. They are the ones that determine the outcome of matters. When they retire, they have usually planned the way things will work for them in their finances and in their lifestyle conditions. But matters don’t always work out as planned. The problem is that the process of retirement forces a measure of external locus of control. Retirees usually don’t have the influence that they used to have, and they are quite often put into a position where they are taken care of and not where they can affect what happens to them

While these two styles of behavior are more or less fixed and an important part of personality, there is evidence now that they can be modified, or at least adapted for a particular set of circumstances. So, even though retirement tends to result in external locus of control, retirees can learn to exercise more internal strategies for control. Psychologists have shown that a natural external locus of control can be shifted to be more focused on internal control.

There are several reasons for encouraging this. One of them is that depression and a personal sense of being unable to do things is a state of mind often found in retirees. Diminishing self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness can be the result when someone loses a sense of being in charge of their own affairs. This means that fighting depression can be helped by strengthening the Internal locus of control.

It is sometimes a delicate matter when friends and relatives, all with the best motives, offer help and sometimes insist on doing things for a retiree which they can very well do on their own. This kindness doesn’t make the retiree stretch themselves or put pressure on them to make an extra effort to get something done.

Retaining a sense of pride and taking pleasure in positive self- esteem are critical for older people. Doing their own chores and retaining some of the habits of their previous lives are equally important. An internal locus of control must be encouraged.

We are too often in situations where our fist instinct is to blame the government or a boss, or some or other unfavorable set of circumstances for our own discomforts. There is an increasing call these days for people to take responsibility for themselves. There is a need for accountability. And when this is done there is the benefit is increased self-confidence.

Some bits of advice about changing the locus of control:

  • Work to become less dependent and more self-reliant. Try not to ask for help, but do the thing yourself as far as possible
  • Become more willing to take decisions. In a team or a group don’t stand back when there seems to be indecision. Step up to it.
  • Learn how to be comfortable with risks. Independent people enjoy taking risks and are willing to take the consequences. This applies particularly when considering a new business venture or embarking on self-employment after retiring

Read the piece on which says among other observations: “Those with an internal locus of control tend to be happier, less depressed, and less stressed”. It also gives some advice on how to develop an internal locus.

Johann is the founding partner of Reset Retirement where we focus on assisting people with planning for the non-financial aspects of their lives after full-time work. He had a long career in executive search and leadership as the founding partner and chairman of Heidrick & Struggles in South Africa where he was the head of the company’s board practice.


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